Cirrhosis is caused by scar tissue that forms in your liver in response to damage occurring over many years. Each time your liver is injured, it tries to repair itself. In the process, scar tissue forms. As the scar tissue builds up, liver function worsens. In advanced cirrhosis, the liver no longer works very well.

It's important to determine the cause of cirrhosis because treating that underlying cause can help prevent further liver damage. A wide range of diseases and conditions can damage the liver and lead to cirrhosis, including:

  • Chronic alcohol abuse
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
  • Fat accumulating in the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Destruction of the bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis)
  • Hardening and scarring of the bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
  • Iron buildup in the body (hemochromatosis)
  • Liver disease caused by your body's immune system (autoimmune hepatitis)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Copper accumulated in the liver (Wilson's disease)
  • Infection by a parasite common in developing countries (schistosomiasis)
  • Poorly formed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
  • Inherited disorders of sugar metabolism (galactosemia, glycogen storage disease)

Some people may have more than one cause for cirrhosis, such as alcohol abuse and viral hepatitis. Up to 20 percent of people with cirrhosis don't have an identifiable cause for the condition (cryptogenic cirrhosis).

Jan. 30, 2013

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